Canandaigua, N.Y. - The "Isabella" grape vine joined the plants at Sonnenberg Gardens on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 24. The vine was presented by John Brahm III, an expert in local wine history and owner of Arbor Hill Grapery & Winery in Naples, N.Y.

The new grape vine will be part of a special grape vine project at Sonnenberg. In May 2015, Dr. Jana Lambey donated 6 grape vines. In August 2015, students from Hobart William Smith College helped clear the gardens and plant those vines for their Day of Sharing. Isabella is now the seventh grape vine at Sonnenberg, tended by Executive Director David Hutchings and Horticulturalist Ken Poole.

Isabella's origins are unknown, but it is one of the earliest grapes to be cultivated in the eastern United States. It was identified in 1816 and thought to have been grown in the 1700s, perhaps before the American Revolution. It is speculated that Isabella is a hybrid of an American grape species (Vitis Labrusca) and a European grape species (Vitis Vinifera) and its parentage could well include the Cape grape (now thought to be extinct), as Isabella shows many of the same vine characteristics. The varietal was named for Mrs. Isabella Gibbs, wife of George Gibbs, a merchant from Brooklyn, NY, who procured the grape vine from the vicinity of Dorchester, South Carolina.

"Isabella is still grown commercially in the Finger Lakes Region," notes John Brahm, owner of Arbor Hill. "But the acreage is quite small and I am only aware of one other planting in the Naples area. I am happy to present this grape vine to Sonnenberg Gardens - another piece of the past housed at Mrs. Thompson's mansion.

In winemaking, Isabella is known for producing light-bodied table wines with strawberry flavors. When Isabella is cold-pressed (pressed at ambient air temperature), it produces a blush or rose-style wine with light sweetness and delectable fresh fruit flavor. Wine made from skin fermented Isabella grapes (the traditional process for red wines), it makes a deep red wine, often aged in oak barrels for making port-style wines.

"Our community's history is all around us and touches us in so many ways.  Agricultural history runs deep in Ontario County's spirit.  Viticulture is an important part of this history.  I am pleased to see Sonnenberg continue with the tradition of the Isabella grape.  With their knowledge and enthusiasm, I am sure that this project will be a success and become another victory in preserving our county's heritage," comments Ed Varno, executive director of the Ontario County Historical Society.

About Arbor Hill

Arbor Hill is a family-owned and operated winery in the hamlet of Bristol Springs in Naples, NY. The award-winning winery opened in 1987 and specializes in new grape varietals, such as Traminette, and historical grape varieties like Vergennes, Moore's Diamond, Iona and Diana. Arbor Hill makes 20 different wines and over 50 gourmet food products.

In 2011, "Brew and Brats at Arbor Hill" opened in the historic carriage barn adjacent to the winery's tasting room and gift shop. The restaurant couples locally-made sausages with its own craft beers and compliments them with a few of their very own gourmet sauces, like the Sherried Wine BBQ Sauce. 

For more information visit or call 585-374-2870.